by Lynn Turcotte-Schuh, CCCE, AAHCC
Hey Mama. First of all, congratulations! Growing a human is no small feat and I am so proud of you for hanging in there! Having said that, if you are anything like me, you’ve had (or will have) a moment of panic when the realization hit that the miracle growing inside you was going to come out…of YOUR body…through your VAGINA.
Most Americans spend more time researching a new car than they spend researching and preparing for the birth of their baby. Figuring out which course is right for you and your family can be overwhelming…and many people choose to just live in ignorant bliss. In fact, the large majority of first time parents never take any sort of class. Please note, however, that this is one of those cases where just because most people do it this way, it does not mean it’s the best way. Let’s cover some of the AMAZING benefits of taking a childbirth class as well as what to look for in a good class.
Why should I take a childbirth class?
If I had a dollar for every time I get asked this question. I get it…only about 20% of first-time parents take a childbirth preparation class. Why is that number so low? Personally, I think it’s because of all the misinformation circulating about how many options you actually have. Taking a class can make you more prepared than you even knew you could be. It answers all the questions you didn’t even know you had. Want some more concrete reasons to take a class? Here you go:
- A woman’s body was built for growing and birthing babies. I always ask expectant Mamas – “Did you have to Google how to make a placenta?” After the giggles dissipate, we get to the meat of that question. The placenta – an organ your body creates to support the growth of your baby. Your body LITERALLY grows an entire new organ complex (no different than your heart or lungs) in order to grow your baby. Really let the power of that sink in for a moment. If your body know how to do this, don’t you think it also knows how to birth the baby? Taking a class will help you understand what to expect from your body and increase your confidence for the big day.
- During your childbirth preparation class, you have the opportunity to discuss your fears about labor and birth with both the instructor and the other students – who quite often have the same fears and anxieties. Calming these fears can actually keep your labor on track and progressing normally…never mind giving you a much more positive experience. I guarantee the other parents in your class have the same questions and concerns…and there is always power in numbers. Knowing you are not alone and getting answers is invaluable.
- Some students find that completing a class with their partner creates a stronger bond that better prepares them to parent together. In the large majority of cases, you started this journey together, bringing your baby into the world should really be looked at as a team effort. Baby is working hard to get themselves out (the cardinal movements of labor), Mom is surely working hard to get baby out (breathing, relaxing, listening to her body, uterus contracting, cervix opening)…it seems only fair that the parenting partner should be working hard too. I call this person the labor coach and their to-do list is quite long. A good childbirth class will cover the job description for both Mom AND Coach. Once you have worked as a team to bring your baby into this world, there is nothing you can’t do together.
- During a good childbirth class, you get a full picture of ALL the options available to you. No matter what type of birth you are striving for, by the end of your class you should be feeling empowered, educated and confident in navigating the right path for you and your family.
- Finally, in order to keep your labor progressing and keep labor pain to a minimum, you need to be relaxed. The labor process is a very intricate dance of hormones and when adrenaline (the stress hormone) spikes in the early stages, in can actually stop your labor. This adrenaline then blocks your body’s natural pain killers (endorphins) and increases your discomfort. When you know what to expect, what is normal, and have tools and techniques to call upon you can prevent the early adrenaline spikes and keep your labor progressing and less painful.
How does childbirth class prepare us for parenting?
To answer that question simply, a good childbirth class should not only cover the stages of labor and relaxation techniques, it should also cover the first few days with your baby. Topics such as newborn procedures, diaper changing, feeding baby, when to call the doctor and how to care for Mom in those first few weeks postpartum are just a few of the extras that should be covered.
Secondly, remember how the class created a sense of teamwork? Can’t parent without that!
What should I look for in a good childbirth class?
Whether it is a private class or a hospital class, these are the minimum attributes I would recommend looking for:
- Instructor Certification – some instructors are certified in specific birthing “techniques”. I don’t think this is a bad thing, I myself am certified as a Bradley Method instructor. What I do think is that an instructor with ONLY this certification (Bradley, Hypnobirthing, Lamaze) cannot necessarily give you a great overview of all your options – they must teach to the curriculum provided. I recommend looking for instructors that have certifications through organizations like CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professionals Association) or ICEA (International Childbirth Education Association) in conjunction with the more specific “methods”.
- Curriculum – as described above, a good childbirth class should cover the stages of physiologic birth, relaxation techniques, common interventions, pain management options, newborn care, and caring for Mom at minimum. If you are taking classes through your birth place, you may need to go to several different sessions to get all of this information.
- Partner’s Role – as mentioned previously, a good childbirth class will prepare the coach as much as the birthing woman. Do not settle for anything less!
- Logistics – Is this class one single day or multiple sessions? How many couples are in the class? What is the class fee? What is included in the class fee (handouts, etc)?
- Online or In-Person – Many private instructors will only have in-person classes, as do many birth places. Some instructors and larger organizations offer online-only courses. There are a small handful of instructors that will offer both or have classes which combine online curriculums with personalized instruction. Look at your schedule and choose the option that best fits your life.
To summarize, trust your body Mama. Trust your instincts. Take a class. Embrace your new role…it is the most fulfilling one you will ever have.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lynn Turcotte-Schuh is a Childbirth Educator and Parenting Mentor, Children’s Book Author, Baby Sign Instructor, and the Creator of Happy Mama Wellness where she helps Mamas prepare for their new role, break through their parenting challenges, operate at their highest potential and create a positive and nurturing family dynamic. She accomplishes this through programs like her signature courses Childbirth Made Easy(er) and How to Train Your Toddler. Lynn is highly passionate about helping Mamas find their power and be a role model they can be proud of.
Want more information on Lynn’s signature program Childbirth Made Easy(er)? Please click here!